The Rayados can clinch a Liga MX playoff berth with a win against a Rayos team that is in free fall.
Monterrey has survived an injury-riddled campaign and can look toward the playoffs with confidence as key players get healthy. The Rayados even have a shot at snaring a top 4 seed that would secure home-field advantage in the quarterfinals.
Necaxa fired coach Marcelo Michel after a Matchday 13 loss to home to León. The offensive-minded manager could never plug holes in his defense and when the offense collapsed into disarray in October he was shown the door. Jorge Martínez Merino is just a stop-gap coach but whoever steps in after the season will find plenty of riddles to solve before the Clausura 2019 gets under way in early January.
Necaxa: 6-2 loss at Pachuca
The Rayos are a mess and Pachuca showed no mercy, scoring early and often. Coach Martínez used a make-shift line-up which was virtually a necessity since several Necaxa players have been playing with little commitment. Top scorer Víctor Dávila did not get off the bench and his replacement, Claudio Riaño, found the net. No other highlights to speak of, however.
Monterrey: 2-0 win vs Veracruz
Midfielder Rodolfo Pizarro scored for the first time since returning from injury row (an MCL sprain), but is still working his way back into playing shape. His goal in minute 25 allowed the Rayados to sit back and frustrate the Tiburones who managed to get 7 shots on goal, but Monterrey keeper Marcelo Barovero was up to the task. Jesús Gallardo got the clincher in minute 71.
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Beckeles – Hernández – Alvarado – Mayorga
Gallegos – González – Pérez – Álvarez
It’s anybody’s guess what coach Martínez might do. I’d imagine he is under orders to spread playing time around so management can see what they have ahead of the short winter trade window. Claudio Riaño has earned an extra look, especially after he started the season off slow as he rehabbed a knee injury.
Gutiérrez – Basanta – Sánchez – Vangioni
Pizarro – Ortiz – Gallardo
Pabón – Madrigal – Hurtado
Skipper José María Basanta is slowly working his way back after a lengthy injury absence so he is not expected to go the full 90 minutes (which might prompt coach Diego Alonso to leave him on the bench as insert him in as a late defensive replacement). Edson Gutiérrez has been a bit of a surprise at right fullback. Pizarro might only be asked to go 60 minutes. The game marks goalie Marcelo Barovero’s first match against his old team.
Necaxa: Mati Fernández has offered mixed results as the offensive mastermind in midfield. His injury in the 4th game of the season disrupted the development of a free-flowing offensive system that could not compensate for the loss of his leadership. At 34, he is on the back-end of his career but his experience could help youngsters mature.
Monterrey: Avilés Hurtado was another Rayado who missed time due to injury and he needs to pick up his game as the playoffs approach. Necaxa’s defensive issues could be the perfect opportunity for the speedy Colombian to get a confidence boost.
With the two teams above them playing each other (Toluca-Pumas), the Rayados have a great chance to leapfrog one or both of them. Monterrey goalie Marcelo Barovero will probably get cheers from his former fans and he’ll be eager to post his 7th shutout of the season. My question is how Necaxa will respond to last week’s embarrassment in Pachuca. Their effort has been lacking.